We have all had that experience of sitting down in a restaurant and looking through a menu to choose what we would like for our meal. If the menu is full of delicious entrees, choosing one might not be an easy decision. Likewise, when you know that your server will soon be returning to your table to take your order, then the pressure is on. What will you choose?
The great Christian writer C. S. Lewis wrote these words about decision making: “We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will, therefore, draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork, you must make a decision.”
In our day to day living, we come in contact with individuals, who for whatever reason, are struggling, suffering, and in need. Society is full of broken people. You don’t have to step too far away from your front door to meet a person in need. Sometimes you don’t even need to leave your own home. The decision that we have to make is how will we respond to human needs?
Jesus encountered all kinds of individuals in his life. In the first century, people were broken then just as they are today. When Jesus encountered a person in need he always chose to respond in compassion. In Matthew 8: 1-4 we read of just such an encounter:
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Jesus chose to heal the man of his leprosy. And thus, in what would have been seen as shocking, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the man with the dreaded and contagious skin disease. Jesus’ choice of compassion led him to reach out to this man who was hurting in so many different ways. There were plenty of reasons on the menu of why Jesus could have refused to help the man: his health, he didn’t know the man, what would others think, how long would he have to be involved, what might it ultimately cost him? Jesus could have easily talked himself out of doing anything for the man.
When we encounter human need our minds often ask the same kinds of questions. Likewise, we can decide to do nothing. However, as followers of Jesus, we are called to choose compassion. Jesus demonstrated the kind of life that we are called to live. Lives that are attentive to human need and a willingness to stretch out to others even when it may be costly. We must choose compassion.
When it comes to following Jesus, the menu of our choices is clear. Jesus would say in Luke 6:36 “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” Compassion for others sometimes seems to be in short supply in our world as we focus so much on ourselves and our own needs while forgetting the needs of those around us. Jesus, however, invites us to look beyond ourselves, to see the needs around us, and then choose to stretch out our hands and touch the lives of others with the same compassion that God has touched us.